Learn about slavery in Memphis. Public sentiment during the 1820's and 1830's was in favor of emancipation but not for racial equality. The demand for slaves in the city was limited since their value depended on trade skills or household services. Most slaves were family servants. Owning a slave was a status symbol which raised the family above "poor whites" without slaves. Slaves were sold in Memphis but not usually auctioned off except in cases of legal settlements and tax debts. After 1857, the slave trade was big business in Memphis with more than a dozen slave firms supplying slaves to the western frontier.